The term bishop's messenger was used for women appointed as lay readers by the Church of England during the First World War due to the shortage of male clergy. They were first appointed in 1917 in many dioceses of the Church of England. The women were appointed to run missions and in some cases run church congregations in the absence of men, although many continued after the war ended. No more female lay readers were then appointed until 1969. The women were organised into the Diocesan Order of Women Messengers (DOWM). The last bishop's messenger in England was Bessie Bangay, who died in 1987.
From 1928 bishop's messengers were also appointed in the Diocese of Manitoba, Canada. The first one was Marguerita Fowler (1884-1970), based at St Faith's Church.